BOSTON -- Though Mookie Betts is generally considered to be the best right fielder in MLB, he continues to prepare for the possibility of being moved to second base when the World Series shifts to Los Angeles for Games 3-5.
"Obviously, I'm going to do whatever I can if the opportunity presents itself to make sure I take care of everything," said Betts. "I think safety is the most important thing."
Red Sox manager Alex Cora is still weighing the pros and cons with his analytics department of shifting Betts to a position he played regularly in the Minors. At Dodger Stadium, without the designated hitter, Cora has said he will start star slugger J.D. Martinez in the outfield for all three games.
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The unflappable Betts has worked out at second base during team workouts the last three days, in addition to his regular work in the outfield.
"I think I won't worry about that until the situation comes," Betts said. "Right now, I just have to take care of playing right field, catching the ball there and scoring some runs for the guys behind me. If that situation comes, it comes. If not, I'm not going to worry about it."
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Another wrinkle for Cora to consider is that the Dodgers will start right-hander Walker Buehler in Game 3. It was believed Los Angeles would start lefties Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill and Clayton Kershaw in the series' three games at Dodger Stadium, which would have given Cora the option of sitting the left-handed-hitting Jackie Bradley Jr., while keeping the right-handed-hitting Ian Kinsler at second base. In that scenario, Andrew Benintendi (LF), Betts (CF) and Martinez (RF) would comprise the starting outfield. Betts made 13 starts in center field during the regular season.
But with Buehler going in Game 3 in L.A., Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has essentially forced Cora's hand: If he wants Betts in the lineup, it makes the most sense to start him at second base and leave the left-handed-hitting Bradley in center field.
Though Bradley is slashing just .177/.255/.290 with two homers and eight RBIs in 137 plate appearances against lefties this season, he has been in the lineup all three times Boston has faced a southpaw starter in this postseason.
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Cora loves the athleticism that Betts, Benintendi and Bradley display on all sides of the ball, and he tries to keep them all in the lineup when possible.
"I read something before, that in the playoffs that when the three are together, our record is like unreal. We're playing .750 baseball," Cora said. "Obviously, they're not going to be together in L.A., at least to start the game. It's always good to have them."
In the regular season and postseason combined, the Red Sox are 72-25 when Benintendi, Bradley and Betts started in the outfield together.
Betts did play six innings at second base after Kinsler was injured on Aug. 3 against the Yankees. Aside from that, the Red Sox have used him exclusively in the outfield the last four seasons.
If Cora does move him, it wouldn't be the most radical move a manager has ever made in this regard during a World Series.
A player getting a World Series start at a position he doesn't play is rare, but it's not unprecedented. The Indians were in a similar situation in 2016, when they wanted to get Carlos Santana's bat in the lineup against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Santana, who was the Indians' primary DH that year, got two World Series starts in left field. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he became the first player since Jake Flowers in 1931 to start a World Series game at a position where he had never previously started. Flowers was primarily a middle infielder, but he started four games of the Fall Classic at third that year for the Cardinals.
Leon will stick with Sale
Christian Vazquez has emerged into Boston's primary catcher during the postseason, but the heavily slumping Sandy Leon has continued to start every game that ace Chris Sale has. That trend will continue in Game 1 of the World Series, Cora confirmed.
Including the postseason, Leon has caught 20 of Sale's 29 starts this season.
"I think just throwing to him, it's easy," said Sale. "He's very levelheaded. He studies hard. He works hard. Obviously, throwing out runners, he's good at that. And even just coming out for mound visits, there's never any panic. There's no sense of urgency. He's just coming out there either calming me down or going over a game plan.
"And for me, personally, I rely on my catcher for basically everything -- for scouting report, for pitch calling. And it's easier when you have guys like that back there that you can trust in and just kind of go out and follow their game plan, and we'll be good to go."
The Red Sox are again expected to carry three catchers on the roster, including Blake Swihart, so Cora can be aggressive about pinch-hitting for Leon, who has two hits in his last 52 at-bats.
Roster decision still looms
The main roster decision for the Red Sox revolves around knuckleballer Steven Wright. The right-hander was on the initial American League Division Series roster but was taken off after one day due to his problematic right knee, which will require arthroscopic surgery during the offseason.
Wright had a strong showing in Sunday's workout, going through fielding drills and throwing to hitters. Rosters are due this morning.
"He was OK. He's moving well," said Cora. "We're going to meet after the workout today to make the decision and to see where we're at roster-wise. And we'll announce it tomorrow."
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If Wright makes the roster, one of Brandon Workman or Richard Hembree will likely be taken off the roster. Workman got rocked for four runs in one-third of an inning the last time he pitched, which was Game 1 of the AL Championship Series. Hembree hasn't given up a run the three times he's pitched in the postseason, though he also hasn't been used since Game 1 of the ALCS.
Bittersweet World Series for Pedroia
Though Dustin Pedroia, proud owner of two World Series rings, has been reduced to spectator status for this Fall Classic, he continues to be a positive force around his teammates.
Pedroia, who hasn't played since May due to complications from a right knee injury, is doing what he can do lend his experience. On Sunday, that included working with Betts on turning double plays.
"It's hard not playing, but that's it," Pedroia said. "Just watching how the guys go about everything, that part is actually fun.
"It's all right. Seeing how these guys play, I'm proud of every single one of them. I bring some energy."
Sale's sarcastic assertion that his stomach illness during the ALCS was caused by a belly-button ring continues to be a humorous topic around the Red Sox.
Brock Holt went so far as to say he would get a belly-button ring and a nipple ring if the Red Sox win the World Series. What does Sale think about setting fashion trends for the Red Sox?
"Hey, that's what I do," quipped Sale. "Fashionista, I guess."